South Mainland Notebook

By Cathy Feeny

Tasty talk for SWRI

Culinary matters will be on the menu for Sandwick SWRI on Tuesday when, in a change to the planned schedule, members will be meeting to hear retired librarian and Levenwick resident John Hunter talk about all things foodie.

Cooking for John is a lifelong passion, first inspired by watching his granny and helping her to make traditional Shetland dishes. Although he is still deeply committed to local and seasonal ingredients, John now describes his fascination with cuisine as being “across the board”.

As well as loving to cook, John likes to read about food and to study recipes. Travel abroad and sampling ethnic restaurants at home has given him an understanding of foreign food and cooking techniques. John is greatly enthusiastic about meals he has eaten in Corsica, whose cuisine he says is much influenced by the sea. He also waxes lyrical about the “spectacular” cuisine of regional France, where a classic dish such as cassoulet can have strict rules about its execution and consumption, which vary from village to village. “It’s a bit like reestit mutton,” he says. “Tradition has it that it should
be eaten over Christmas and New Year, but never in summer.”

Unsurprisingly, John’s collection of recipe books numbers around 100, and at present he is particularly pleased with a second-hand volume of Italian recipes he purchased in Edinburgh. It is in English, but he does have recipes written in Italian. It’s not a language he speaks, but he manages to follow them with the aid of a dictionary. He is also a big reader of food magazines.

Retirement has allowed John the time in which to develop his interest in food ever further. “We’ve just installed a state-of-the-art kitchen,” he says, “and it’s got to be used, so I’ll be trying different things.” John was, in fact, thinking in terms of goat for Christmas day, but he is not sure that it would be fair to spring it on his unsuspecting guests. Instead, as they aren’t turkey fans, the menu will probably include sirloin on the bone.

The Sandwick SWRI meetings take place at 7.30pm in the meeting room of Sandwick Parish Church. All are welcome. For further details call Cynthia Jamieson on (01950) 431367.

Winter at Old Scatness

Old Scatness archaeological site is now closed for the winter, but should any school or other groups wish to visit over this period, guides are available and would be delighted to show folk around. Just phone Shetland Amenity Trust on (01595) 694688.

With the exception of the Tuesday of that week, the site is also planning to open from Sunday 24th-Friday 29th of January for the Lerwick Up-Helly-A’, when the shop, living history displays and reconstructions will all be up and running. In the meantime, the staff are building on this year’s very successful summer season by arranging more exciting events and activities for next year’s visitors.

Useful lessons at Boddam Hall

The early days of a new course are bound to be traumatic. How will you measure up? Will you get on with the other participants? What if you don’t understand what is required of you?

For this reason some of those taking part in the first of the dog training classes at Boddam Hall were rather more sanguine about proceedings than others. While an old hand calmly surveyed the goings-on from under a table, one first-timer had to be carried in bodily. There was an awful lot of barking, a little bit of growling, a failed attempt at an amorous encounter, and for several the occasion proved just too much, resulting in accidents of both varieties.

The participants included a whole range of breeds, from collies, dalmatians, spaniels and Jack Russells to a long-haired chihuahua, and a labrador/poodle cross called a labradoodle, which closely resembled a canine Alan Davies. They had been brought to the classes for a variety of reasons. Some were pups, some needed to overcome nervousness of other dogs and others had bad habits such as jumping up and chasing bicycles.

Having filled in a form designed to find out about their dog’s lifestyle, current behaviour and particular problems, members of the class were shown by Helen Thomson, who runs the course, a technique to deal with barking. In the hush that followed Helen reminded everybody that dogs are pack animals, and if you don’t insist on being the boss they will take that role for themselves. To this end the owners had been given a page headed “Some thing that can be done to give your dog the correct status in your family”. Among these were not greeting him first when you return home, and making him do tasks to earn his privileges “e.g. ‘sit’”.

It was then time to work on mastering basic commands. Helen demonstrated how to make a dog walk at heel without pulling on the lead, turn and sit when told. After that the participants endeavoured to do the same themselves. “Forward!” instructed Helen, and although one class member froze, most complied. Some were, admittedly, better at sitting than others, but the striking thing was the amazing speed at which all showed a marked improvement.

In the course of little more than 20 minutes, a cacophony of sound had been virtually silenced, order had replaced disorder, and both human and animal lives looked well on the way to being more enjoyable.

Helen is known for her conviction that dogs should behave correctly, and she runs the course on an entirely voluntary basis. The dog owners of Ness are indeed lucky to be able to receive lessons from such a dedicated lady.

Big adventure for Ness pupils

Lesley Simpson, the head teacher of Dunrossness Primary School, had a pivotal experience at the age of 14. She and her classmates went to the United States, on a tour organised by the Anderson High School. “It was a fantastic trip,” Lesley recalls, “and very well planned. We went to lots of different American cities, and it really caught my imagination and inspired me with an interest in the world outside Shetland.”

Recently Lesley had the chance to offer two children from her own school a similar experience, when she and colleague Rachel Bell took 11-year-old pupils Cara Steven and Caitlin Munro to spend a few days in New Jersey. “All the children who wanted to go had to put in an application, answering various questions,” says Lesley. “Then members of my staff chose those who they felt would be best at sharing what they had done with the rest of the school.”

The teachers and pupils had a smooth journey in both directions, but it involved several changes of plane. “We flew from Shetland to Edinburgh,” says Lesley, “then from Edinburgh to Heathrow and on to the United States. The Atlantic crossing took eight hours on the way there, but only six on the way back. We had hoped that we’d sleep but nobody did.”

They stayed with the chairwoman of the Parent Teacher Association of Montgomery Lower Middle School in New Jersey, who has two daughters aged 11 and nine and a 14-year-old son. “We were in the commuter belt for New York and Philadelphia,” says Lesley, “and also near to Princeton University, so it was a very affluent area. The children were amazed by the size of the houses.”

Plenty of sightseeing took place. In Philadelphia the pupils were shown the famous Liberty Bell. In New York they took the ferry across to the Statue of Liberty, where they learned about the statue’s symbolism and toured the Immigration Museum. “The view from there across to Manhattan was stunning,” says Lesley. And they had another stunning view of the city after dark from the top of the Empire State Building.

With their host family they visited Ground Zero, where they could look through the wire and see where the Memorial Plaza is being made. “We also rode on the subway,” says Lesley, “and we ate pretzels. The pupils were struck by how big New York is, and by the number of people, but they took it all in their stride.”

As well as seeing the sights, the pupils took part in Montgomery School’s classes, and they did a presentation on the South Mainland of Shetland and Dunrossness Primary School for their American counterparts. They also played fiddle music for them and answered questions.

“We were surprised by how well-informed the American pupils were about Shetland,” says Lesley. “They were interested to hear about our festivities, such as Up-Helly-A’. They also asked whether we celebrate the Fourth of July! The organisation of their lessons and school day are very different from ours. They have no playtime or break, and they frequently change classrooms, more like in our secondary schools, so they enjoyed comparing notes. We were asked as well about what sports we play. The Dunrossness pupils were fascinated by the lockers in which the American children keep their belongings, and by the iconic yellow school buses. Coming from an Eco-School we were all surprised by the amount of waste at lunchtime, and by the quality of the food. Unlike ours, it wasn’t at all nutritious, and it was served in plastic cartons.”

So what does Lesley think her pupils have gained from the trip? “They’ve got an insight into life in the United States,” she replies. “But already you can see too that they have gained in confidence, and that they have a new sense of their own abilities. They took part in classes with people they had never met before. They even went on a school trip to Princeton. Back home they have done a presentation to their fellow pupils on all that they learned.”

Inspired by the pupils’ travels, the school is making plans for a future America Week, which will culminate in a display for the parents. “We aren’t sure what it is going to comprise yet,” says Lesley, “but we will probably be looking at things such as the geography, history and culture of the United States. It will be up to the children to decide what they want to study. We are also hoping that some of the children from Montgomery School will be able to visit Shetland one day.”

At present, though, Dunrossness Primary is getting ready for its Christmas concerts, which take place on Wednesday at the school. Parents and members of the community are all welcome, and will be asked for donations at the door, which will go towards school drama and Makaton, a sign language charity. At 1.30pm Nursery and Primary 1 will perform the musical Shine Star Shine and Primary 2 to 7 will perform the musical Silent Night. There will be another performance of Silent Night that evening at 7pm.

Gig at Sandwick Social Club

Rock music fans are in for a treat tomorrow night when Mindsetters, a local band that takes its name from Setter where its members are from, will be performing at Sandwick Social Club.

Formed in 2006, Mindsetters has an impressive playlist, covering favourites from the 1960s through to modern bands such as Foo Fighters.

Hard rock is something of a speciality, so if you like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, you’ll definitely be in the right place, but the band performs lighter numbers too, including hits by T Rex, Cockney Rebel and The Stone Roses.

The group varies widely in age and experience but what unites them is a love of rock, so look forward to a groovy night. The music starts at around 9.30pm. Entry is free.

Flu vaccinations

Levenwick Medical Practice would like to ask all their patients who have underlying health problems to contact them as soon as possible if they require an H1N1 (swine flu) vaccination.

They also wish to remind any patient who has not yet received the seasonal winter flu vaccination to call the practice. For further information phone (01950) 461222.


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